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5 Signs You Have Picked a Bad Accountant

Nowadays it’s easier than ever to switch accountants. In the digital age, information is handed over quickly and efficiently. No more waiting for the post or having to respond to letters – it can all be done by email and encrypted file sharing.

So you’ve made the switch to a new accountant with promises of tax savings, cheaper fees and better service.

But how do you know you’ve picked a good accountant? Well, here’s what you need to watch out for:

They promise they can save you tax

If an accountant makes this promise as part of their sales pitch, then you should seriously question it – especially if they haven’t seen a single scrap of your business paperwork yet.

Most good accountants will set their clients up to be as tax efficient as possible, and in a way that’s appropriate for them. For example, the cost-benefit analysis of the tax saving vs the increase in accountants’ fees.

However, some accountants like to promise the world and then charge a fortune to deliver a very minimal tax saving.

There are always loads of fancy terms to sling around and it’s easy to use big tax words when you make contact with a client for the first time. It might sound impressive, but it very often doesn’t pan out to be appropriate for the business.

They slate your last accountant

This is a huge red flag.

Good accountants remain professional at all times and will never accuse a previous accountant of being incompetent – even if the work they see is very poor. It’s not in an accountants’ code of ethics to undermine others in the profession. Everyone has professional bodies to answer to.

If your new accountant starts the relationship by bad-mouthing your last accountant, then be warned!

They say they need to redo work your old accountant has done, and then charge you for it

If this happens then run a mile.

It’s quite likely that they’ve undercharged in order to win you as a client and are looking for a way to recoup their costs. In some cases, they’ll claim that you can get your previous accountant to pay the invoice – this isn’t true.

In most cases where a new accountant requires an amendment to work done by your old accountant, they’ll just do it themselves at no extra cost, or the old accountant will make the amendment for free. The need for an amendment doesn’t mean that the work was wrong, or bad. It just means that the new accountant is doing things a slightly different way and wants some continuity across financial years. If they expect a charge for doing the (often unnecessary) work, then walk out of the door.

They were super keen to get you on board but disappear once you’ve signed the contract

Ah, this old chestnut!

We’ve heard this so many times: “They were so helpful and quick to respond during the sign-up process, but now my VAT return is due and they’re not returning my calls.”

A good accountant manages expectation and has set timescales as to when they’ll be in touch. One business day maximum for phone calls and emails is pretty standard.

They refuse to talk to your old accountant.

When a client switches accountants, there’s a bit of background work that is done – this is called Professional Courtesy or Professional Clearance.

The new accountant makes contact with the old accountant and they hand over various working documents and calculations that you – the client – may not have. Usually all this goes without a hitch and is a painless process. However, occasionally the new accountant flat-out refuses to do this. Or claims that the old accountant is being difficult. Or, they try to charge you for it.

If any of this happens then make contact with your old accountant and try to seek out the truth. If it turns out that your new accountant has been less than forthcoming during the handover process then you should shop around again.

Choosing a good accountant

Accountants are usually a friendly bunch. Like most professionals, we just want what’s best for our client. And we take pride in working with clients to get them the absolute best service – even if that means they move on to pastures new.

Unfortunately, as the market becomes more competitive, there are some practitioners who are resorting to unethical behaviour to try to boost their revenues and make their competition seem bad. A good accountant doesn’t need to do any of this – if they’re confident in their own abilities, then they never resort to the sort of tactics we’ve mentioned above.


Questions to ask

If you’re looking to switch accountants then these are questions you should ask :

  • Have you worked with a business in this industry before?

You want to be confident that your new accountant understands how your business works.

  • Can you help me to save money?

It’s good to know that your accountant actually cares about saving you money and helping your business to prosper.

  • How will you help my company to grow?

You need an accountancy partner who’s able to grow with your business.

  • How are the exact fees levied and services delivered?

Make sure they’re upfront about the costs of their services from the get-go, so there are no surprises further down the line.

  • Which accounting programs do you use?

This isn’t crucial, but this information might be more important to know for the changeover.

  • Will you contact my current accountant to let them know I’m leaving?

At Mazuma, we send a letter to your accountant to let them know you’re leaving.

In accountancy, integrity is key.

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